Five Questions: Horn player keeps Vikings fans in the mood
Vikings fans haven't had much to cheer about this season, which makes Rich Batchelor's job that much more important on football Sundays. He's the guy at Whistle Binkies on the Lake wearing Vikings regalia and purple-and-gold Mardi Gras beads who jumps up every time the team scores and plays "Skol, Vikings" on his tiny purple horn. It puts purple people in the mood.
Rich, 53, moved here with his family in 1970, is a graduate of Mayo High School and is in the real estate business with Property Brokers of Minnesota. He's also a band instrument rep for Welhaven Music and meets with band directors at 26 schools around the area, and does some bookkeeping on the side for Whistle Binkies.
He'll be tooting his horn for the Vikings' season-ender on Sunday.
When I asked if you're married, Rich, you said, "My name is Batchelor." So if you were to marry, would you change your name?
My name has always been a good ice-breaker.
So has mine. Musically speaking, do you play a cornet, a toy trumpet or what?
It's a pocket trumpet. I found this purple one on eBay and had it customized with the Vikings logo. I have to warn parents, though, that while the intonation is that of a trumpet, it's not suitable for school bands. If you're playing with anyone else, you won't like the sound.
I've been doing this for nine seasons. I thought it would be kind of fun to go from one bar and grill to another on game days and maybe somebody would buy me a drink or food. I went to about five in Rochester and one in Elba … I had a couple of beers bought for me, and then I stopped into the original Whistle Binkies and started playing, and the owners loved it. They asked what it would take to get me there every week, and I said, "I haven't paid my tab yet."
They've picked it up since then.
Are there Vikings games when you don't get to play even one note?
Well, I traditionally play before the game, after the game and at halftime, so I'm guaranteed to play three times ... and then whenever they score. It can be a little frustrating, but the excitement that it adds for the patrons makes it worth it.
I also have this (Rich holds up what most of us know as a homemade beer bong)and blow this at appropriate times during the game, when they have an outstanding play or a turnover in their favor, to make that Vikings' "horn" sound.
It can be tuned by adjusting the length of the tube with a pocket knife.
Do people ask you to play the Packers fight song?
I've been asked many times. Out of principle, I won't do it, but I usually ask those Packers fans to sing it for me first and they can't do it. Problem solved.
When the Vikings play the Packers, we always have a four-piece band in here — two trumpets, a trombone and a tuba.
Think you'll ever get a chance to play your pocket trumpet at a Vikings Super Bowl game?
That would certainly be the wish. I know we have a little bit of work to do before that would happen, but I do hope to see it someday.
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